ELKOST International Literary Agency

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Non-Memoirs

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 Rights sold to: World English - Dalkey Archive Press, Italy – INTERLINEA, Spain – GRANADA UNIVERSITY PRESS, Turkey - ALFA

 

One afternoon in December 1992, in Tartu, Estonia, Yuri Lotman reluctantly sat down to dictate his memoirs to Elena Pogosian, his assistant, over a pot of tea. Before his wife, Zara Mints, died in 1990, he had promised her that he would write the story of his life, and it was in memory of her that he embarked on a project he found disagreeable. This December afternoon was the first of twelve dictation sessions during which the initial draft of Non-Memoirs was created between them. The sessions were spread out over that winter and into the spring of 1993—the last spring of Lotman’s life. He could no longer write himself, due to a series of debilitating strokes and the weakness brought on by kidney cancer, and so had grown accustomed to the process of dictation and transcription by means of which he produced Non-Memoirs and his final theoretical works, the largest of which is a collection of essays called Culture and Explosion.

 

In its published form, Non-Memoirs is divided into seven sections of varying length. The five shorter sections concern themselves with a single anecdote or theme (lice on the front, an encounter with a hare, a “totally Bulgakovian” episode, a visit from the KGB, Tartu School politics); the two longer sections provide the narrative backbone of the memoirs, tending to treat the passage of time, rather than a single event (school and frontline life, the end of the war and postwar university life).